A tough, competitive and hard-fought match for Sporting but very happy as they returned home with three more very valuable points.
An early morning pitch inspection deemed the surface to be playable but it was a typical January match with a bit of snow at either end and a cold but not too fierce wind blowing down the ground.
Sporting started brightly in a determined mood and with just three minutes on the clock, Aaron Roberts beat his marker on the right to deliver an inch perfect cross into the box. Hinckley ‘keeper Hadyn Whitcombe went for the catch but only succeeded in getting his finger tips to the ball, knocking it to the feet of Jason Cowley who gratefully struck home from 8 yards out giving the away side a fortunate but welcome lead.
Sporting then continued to have the better of the play for most of the first half with Ahmed Ali controlling things in mid-field and Reece Hewitt regularly making incisive runs down the left. Indeed The Rouslers next best chance went to Hewitt on the 12th minute but his angled drive went just wide of Whitcombe’s left-hand post.
Hinckley when they had possession looked dangerous on the break with left wing-back Lee Thomas regularly getting forward but the Sporting back four were not in a benevolent mood and not only denied their opponents any opportunities but forced them into long-range efforts, the best coming from former Rousler Sean Williams on 15 minutes but his shot went well wide of the right-hand post.
The hard-working Robbie Bunn saw his thunderbolt parried by Whitcombe on 20 minutes whilst Luke Shorthouse might have done better than hit the side-netting four minutes later.
The home side though were getting forward more often and Sporting ‘keeper Jon Brown making his on-loan debut for the injured Chris Jay was called into action on the 38th minute to punch away a Ryan Seal free-kick. However his best contribution came in the first minute of added time when Javia Roberts danced round three Sporting defenders before producing a drive that Brown stopped diving low.
Clearly the half-time pep talk in both dressing rooms had been to get stuck in a more as both teams came out more resolute but it was the Bromsgrove outfit who gained the most and it was another brilliant Reece Hewitt goal on 66 minutes that doubled the lead when he picked up a loose ball about 10 yards outside the box, beat three defenders before unleashing a low drive in the bottom left-hand corner of Whitcombe’s net.
The advantage though was short-lived as Hinckley pushed forward to get back into the match and it came four minutes later following a short clearance that only went as far as another former Rousler Darious Darkin who hit a hard shot from the edge of the box that ricocheted off the boot of a Sporting defender well to the left of Brown who had no chance despite his making a valiant dive.
With the home side now believing they could rescue this game, the tension rose around St John’s Park and there was no shortage of chitchat between players and the crowd. On 78 minutes Brown produced a one-handed save from the impressive Roberts whilst a couple of minutes later a good interchange by the Sporting forwards saw Andy Nicol blast over the bar when it might have been easier to score.
The last few minutes had Sporting fans chewing their fingernails as referee Mr Croston gave the home side a succession of free-kicks in good positions but despite good efforts particularly from Lee Butler, the Sporting back four held firm and survived seven minutes of added time.
So on the day Sporting edged their determined opponents thanks to some very capable defending and having the advantage in mid-field for much of the game.
Afterwards captain Sam Wills said, "We were confident and thought we had enough quality. In the end we won a tough battle."
Hinckley: Hadyn Whitcombe, James Williams, Lee Thomas, Ryan Paddock, Jamal Clarke, Mark Williams (Peter Williams 69 mins), Lee Butler, Ryan Seal (Capt.), Javia Roberts, Luke Richards (Darious Darkin 60 mins), Sean Williams.
Substitutes not used: Jacob Sturgess, Tom McCrystal, John Melligan.
Goal: Darious Darkin (70 mins).
Yellows: Mark Williams (53 mins), Lee Butler (90+2 mins).
Sporting: Jon Brown, Aaron Roberts, Jack Wilson, Sam Wills (Keenen Meakin-Richards 75 mins), Luke Edwards, Danny Morris, Ahmed Ali (Liam Spink 87 mins), Robbie Bunn, Jason Cowley, Luke Shorthouse (Andy Nicol (77 mins), Reece Hewitt.
Substitutes not used: Chris Lloyd, Craig Jones.
Goals: Jason Cowley (3 mins), Reece Hewitt (66 mins).
Yellows: Luke Edwards (58 mins), Liam Spink (66 mins), Aaron Roberts (81 mins).
Referee: Mr I Croston (Coventry)
Assistants: Mr S Kings (Earl Shilton), Mr H Tingley (Loughborough)
Weather: Cold, damp.
Sporting Man of the Match: Luke Edwards.